There are countless studies proving the performance benefits of stimulants such as caffeine, it’s one of the reasons many stimulants are banned substances for professional athletes.
However what we want to answer is should you take them? It’s not as clear cut as better performance in one workout, we have to also consider the long term.
Stimulants essentially aid in performance and allow you to place more stress on the body. With that in mind while there are a lot of factors to consider here, 3 of the main ones that can help you come to your decision are:
1. Your physiology
We’re all different and among us will be those who will tend to be more sympathetic nervous system dominant. This can result in being prone to getting stressed out easily, spells of anxiety and insomnia. If you identify yourself with any of these traits or just generally consider yourself to be highly strung with more of a nervous energy. I would recommend avoiding any stimulants as they will only make the matter worse. In your case the negatives of stimulants would outweigh the performance benefits.
2. Your Lifestyle
If you either struggle with energy, have higher than normal stress levels or poor sleep. Again I would recommend limiting or cutting out any stimulant use. There’s no problem using them sparingly, let’s say you’ve been travelling for work and have an important meeting to attend. Yet long-term use will only work as a band-aid solution. Taking the time to fix the root causes of your energy, stress or sleep issues would be far more beneficial.
3. Your Training
High intensity exercise such as lifting weights is a form of stress and the more frequently you train, the more aware you will need to be to not dig yourself in too big of a recovery hole each session. Adding stimulants will only increase the amount of stress placed on the body each time. If you feel like you’re recovering with no problems between sessions than stimulants can be fine, otherwise you should limit their use or cut them out altogether.
Stimulants are a performance enhancer, but also a form of additional stress. If you live a stress-free life, the additional stress could be fine if not beneficial to your goals. If you are like most of us and have more stress than desired, stimulants will be the credit card equivalent for your body. Eventually you have to pay back the energy debt. For some this might just be a couple days of rest, for others this could be illness, getting injured or adrenal fatigue.
One cup of coffee earlier in the day is generally going to be ok and in fact likely benefit everyone due to the abundance of antioxidants.
Where possible though I would not use stimulants as they will often end up being depended upon and there are countless long-term healthier ways to feel more alert or motivated.
What are your views on stimulants? Do you use them?